There are many reasons why Rotorua is one of New Zealand's premium tourist destinations. From our incredible lakes to our geothermal springs, our native forests and rich history, it's pretty clear why people from all over Aotearoa, and the world, flock to enjoy holidays here.
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But in all honesty, I think what really sets tourism in Rotorua apart on the world stage is our manaakitanga - our hospitality. The human connection woven through any stay here is something that people take home when they leave Rotorua. We're incredibly proud of our environment, and it shows. You can enjoy a forest anywhere in the world, but it's the way our people take pride in hosting guests that makes Rotorua special.
Unfortunately, tourism still seems to be somewhat considered an easy class in school, or a "gap year job". Sometimes it can feel a bit like the industry and its wide possibilities aren't fully understood or valued. We want people to realise that tourism is one of New Zealand's most rewarding and valuable industries.
Tourism is a $39.1 billion-dollar industry in New Zealand, and it has surpassed the dairy industry as one of our main earners. Tourism employs 8 per cent of the entire population of New Zealand and accounts for more than 20 per cent of our export earnings.
Yet despite this, there's a perception amongst youth in the Bay of Plenty that tourism jobs are low-status, temporary, anti-social, badly paid, and with limited career pathways, according to recent research by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
There's far more to tourism than casual guide roles, entry level hospitality positions, though these jobs often are very fun and rewarding for those starting out in the industry. Who wouldn't want to get paid to swing through a forest or kayak with guests around serene lakes?
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In a world where entrepreneurship and "workaholism" are glorified, there's an assumption that tourism roles are a dead end, with no room for growth or an intellectual challenge. The reality is very different. At Canopy Tours alone, I've seen countless guides develop their skills to a very high level, at which they are able to run their own tourism business. I myself went from being on the reception desk to now working as the business development manager.
Tourism is leading the way in so many key areas of change in New Zealand. We're carving space on the world stage for initiatives like the Tiaki Promise, through which guests are taught how to be guardians of our environment while they visit. Also, we're incredibly proud to be part of the Sustainability Commitment, which saw more than 1000 tourism operators around the country take up the challenge to focus their operations on sustainability. In the tourism industry, we have the opportunity to make lasting, positive change in our environment.
I believe that tourism is one of the most fun, rewarding, and challenging career options for New Zealanders. There are so many diverse ways to work in the tourism sector, but unfortunately, we're on track for a workforce shortage by 2025. It's estimated we need another 40,000 tourism industry workers in the next five years alone.
My message to the tourism industry is this: let's work to create attractive options for young people to see a future in our industry. To prospective students: come and check us out! Rotorua is full of amazing opportunities to work in one of the most exciting industries in the world. All you have to do is take a look.
Moerangi Vercoe is the business development manager at Rotorua Canopy Tours